The Perhentian Islands Travel Guide ~ Malaysia
Malaysia Travel Trips

The Perhentian Islands Travel Guide ~ Malaysia

This post is part of the series Malaysia

Other posts in this series:

  1. Street Art in George Town ~ Penang
  2. Kek Lok Si Temple ~ Penang
  3. The Perhentian Islands Travel Guide ~ Malaysia (Current)
  4. My 10 most valuable insights into life from the last 10 Years ~ Fire Show
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Let’s move ahead to the reason why I decided to visit Malaysia in 2017 – the Perhentian Islands! The name “Perhentian” is to be pronounced as Perhen-tee-ahn, not Perhen-shen (as many Australians do).

 

The Perhentian Islands are located in the warm-water coral reef of South China Sea, 19 km off the coast of north-eastern Malaysia, and 64 km south from the Thai border. What does the name mean? The word “Perhentian” means “stopping point” in Malay – back in the days, the islands were an important stopover for the trading route between Bangkok and Malaysia. I can easily image why the merchants did choose exactly these two small paradise spots …

 

 

Sunrise Long Beach, Pulau Kecil
Sunrise Long Beach

 

The two islands Pulau Besar (big island) and Pulau Kecil (small island) became my secret paradise and after arriving here, I didn’t want to leave! Never. Why secret? Due to the fact that the islands are actually not well-known (even) by the locals, they are still “virgin” in a sense of mass tourism, pollution, traffic and frivolous buildings. The Perhentians can rightly be proud of their taintless beaches, wild nature and highly biodiverse coral reefs! One of my absolutely favorite things about the Perhentian Islands is the fact that they have no roads at all! This also means no heavy development and useless civilization!

 

Perhentian Islands, Map
Perhentian Islands, Map

 

There are also three smaller and uninhabited islands: Susu Dara, Seringgi and Rawa. The locals call them “Baby Islands”. All three of them belong to a protected marine park – fishing, collecting corals is strictly forbidden and illegal!

 

When to Go?

 

You can visit the Perhentian Islands (only!) from the beginning of March until late October. The islands are literally closed during November, December, January and February due to the eastern monsoon. Not only the islands, but also all other east coast islands are affected by the weather condition during this time of the year! The eastern monsoon is NOT a funny thing… Don’t believe the travel-agents if they try to convince you that all accommodations are open. They are not!

 

Sunrise Long Beach Pulau Kecil, Perhentian Islands
Sunrise Long Beach

 

When asking about the weather, our diving teacher had the following question: “Do you see the restaurant over there?” while pointing with his forefinger toward nothing … And then he said:  “Yes. There is no restaurant. But it was the best one last year before the monsoon came.”

 

These are some photo examples from the last day before leaving the Island – I was snorkeling near the Baby Islands. The Monster Clouds came from nowhere … and I, without being religious, started praying to all Gods that I know… The last photo is from the last morning and the Thunderstorm that I will never forget! And this had nothing to do with the eastern monsoon – imagine how it looks like during the months between November and February!

 

 

How do you get to the Perhentian Islands?

 

In the last couple of days, we were staying in George Town, Penang (you can find my posts about Penang here). We were flying with Fireflyz Fly (you can choose between Malaysia Airline and Air Asia when flying from Kuala Lumpur) from Penang to  Kota Bharu, which took about 45 minutes. After we arrived at the airport, we took a taxi to Kuala Besut which is another 70 minutes / 55 km. From Kuala Besut, you can take the speed boat (45 min, RM 70 two-way ticket) or slow boat (1.30 h, RM 40 two-way ticket). You can choose among plenty of boat operators once you have reached Kuala Besut.  You’ll have to pay additional 30 RM National Park marine fee for traveling to the Perhentian Islands. It costs only 5 RM if you are a local.

 

Speed Boat from Kota Bharu to Perhentian Islands
Speed Boat from Kota Bharu to Perhentian Islands

 

Warning!  Pack up any electronics, your passport and documents in plastic bags! It can get very wet, anytime.

 

Warning! The speed boats operators are not always following the safety rules and they do often boarding much more passengers than allowed. Complain about overloading at police number 999 and Malaysian ministry of tourism if you notice any strange circumstances.

 

The speed boat will take you to your accommodation. Only few accommodations have their own pier. First option: you’ll be waiting on a small wooden island till a smaller boat comes and takes you to your accommodation (extra RM 2). Second option: you’ll have to carry your bags the whole way (sand beach!) from the main pier to your hotel. Lucky us! Our Hotel was on the main Pier …

 

Long Beach, Kecil Pulau

To return from the islands to Kuala Besut you have to take one of the boats at 8:00, 12:00 or 16:00. You should make a reservation one day before you leave the island.

 

Warning! When you’re flying from Kota Bharu, make sure you have enough time for getting to the mainland! Depending on the weather conditions, the boats can be easily cancelled! (Of course, that is what happened to us…). But because I knew this could happen, I have booked a Hotel in Khota Bharu for one night, before flying to Singapore.

 

Pulau Besar (Big Island) or Pulau Kecil (Small Island)?

 

There are absolutely no museums, bigger shops, monuments, discos or fancy restaurants on the islands. Thank goodness for this! The white sand beaches, the crystal clear turquoise water with the greatest marine bio-diversity, are the highlight of the Perhentians. Well, both off the islands are insanely beautiful and both of them are much more expensive compering them with the rest of Malaysia. Which island you’ll choose to stay at, is normally decided by the kind of traveler you are. Pulau Besar has more family friendly accommodations, as well as honeymooners’ luxury villas. The bigger island is more isolated and there are even less restaurants and places where you can eat something outside your accommodation.  Pulau Kecil attracts younger travellers, free-spirit travellers and backpackers. The food on Kecil is cheaper, as you have several opportunities to eat outside your accommodation. The smaller Island has the most beautiful beach as well – the Long Beach. Kecil also has Coral Bay beach – the only place on both islands where you can watch the sunset!

 

Of course, we’re heading for the Small Island – Kecil!

 

Stop at Pulau Besar, Perhentian Islands
Stop at Pulau Besar

Where should you stay on the Perhentian Islands?

 

This is also tricky! Only several accomodations are partners of online booking websites. Those who are, are expensive. But when travelling from Innsbruck (Austria) to Perhentian Islands (South China Sea), you don’t want to sleep on the beach for one week… So I had no choice than to book our accommodation online. If you have the same issue, try to book min 3 Months in advance! I saved a loooot of money by doing so! It was twice the price 6 weeks before our “check-in” date. When you want to book online, I would recommend comparing Agoda and Booking.com.

 

BUBU Beach, Perhentian Islands
BUBU Beach

 

Otherwise, you can contact your accommodation via email, Facebook or Twitter.

 

Many of the backpackers take their chance and  arrive on the island as early as possible to grab rooms when the people are checking-out – but it’s a risk especially during the main season.

 

Beautiful Morning, Perhentian Islands
Beautiful Morning,

 

My personal recommendation is the place we chose to stay in: BUBU Long Beach (check it here)! It was for sure the best accommodation located on the Long Beach, the service was great and the food – fantastic! My favourite part of our stay in BUBU, is definitely the view!

 

ATMs in the Perhentian Islands

 

Make sure you have enough cash when travelling to Perhentians! There are no ATMs on the Islands.

 

Sunrise Long Beach, Pulau Kecil
Sunrise Long Beach

 

Sunrise Long Beach, Perhentian Islands
Sunrise Long Beach

 

Using Electronics and Internet

 

Good to know is the fact that Perhentians still use generators to produce electricity. That means – drop outs are not to be excluded (especially in the afternoons). Only the “best” resorts have power 24h/day (again, BUBU wins!). All the others have power only during the night. So charge your electronics during the night!

 

The Wi-Fi and other internet options are very slow. But you have the paradise surrounding you, so why would you need an Internet connection?

 

Pulau Besar, Lonely Beach
Pulau Besar, Lonely Beach
Boat Trip to Turtle Point
Boat Trip to Turtle Point

 

Diving and Snorkeling

 

I always wanted to learn how to scuba dive! And what a better place than the Perhentian Islands! Many would say, the best of the Perhentians’ lies under the water. Generally, all activities on the Perhentians are “limited” to sunbathing, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, sea-kayaking, fish feeding, turtle conservation volunteering and enjoying the life. And hiking. And beach hopping.

 

There are many dive schools on both islands. On Kecil, you can find those scattered along Long Beach and a couple in Coral Bay. I can recommend you the “Turtle Bay Divers”, located on the Long Beach, Kecil Island.

Snorkelling is like ...Snorkeling is like …
 

We booked a PADI Diving Course on the first day, right after arriving … and on the second day (and one hour of scuba diving and trying not to panic under water) I quitted. I felt miserable.  I cried. I was disappointed by myself. I wanted to see the turtles. And the sharks. And I wanted to find Nemo!

 

Pulau Besar, Lonely Beach
Pulau Besar, Lonely Beach
Pulau Besar, the Big Island
Pulau Besar, the Big Island

 

And I did all of this! God bless the “Snorkeling”! The water visibility around the Perhentian Islands during the summer months is absolutely excellent! I took three snorkelling excursions to the best spots by boat – I met my new friends and sweetest Girls (ever!) from Kuala Lumpur, I found Nemo, I met all his family, got scared by the reef sharks, and then by the manta rays,  and I saw the Turtles! The turtles that brought me to Malaysia… And I cried again, but this time out of joy.

 

Never give up your dream! Not all roads lead to Rome, but enough of them do…

 

Turtle, Perhentian Islands
The only turtle photo with recognisable turtle on it
 
… And here is a much better one! Follow my Snorkeling Guide who works at BUBU Resort! He posts some incredible marine life photos from Perhentians! …
 

A post shared by Ahmad Aizat Khalil (@ahmadaizatkhalil) on


 

Attention! NEVER, EVER touch or kick the reef! Never touch marine life while snorkeling or diving! It takes months, sometimes even years for the corrals to recover after being damaged!

 
*A special thanks goes to Hasliza, who saved my post with the following underwater images! If you’re readig this: “Thank you! You are the best!”
 

Giant Pearl Clam, Perhentian Islands
Giant Pearl Clam, Perhentian Islands
Flat Corals, Perhentians
Flat Corals
Fire Corals, Perhentian Islands
Fire Corals
Coral Reef, Baby Islands, Perhentians
Coral Reef, Baby Islands
Anemone, coral reef, Perhentian Island
Anemone, Coral Reef
Nemo Fish Perhentian Islands
We found Nemo!

 

Partying 

 

Let replace the word “partying” with “chilling”, because this is what the party does look like. Although there are almost no restaurants and bars on the Kecil Island, there are still more than on the bigger island. If you want to have some alcohol, it is definitely more expensive than on the mainland.

 

Fire Show, Long Beach, Perhentian Islands
Fire Show, Long Beach

 

In the evening, the most favourite place among the chillers is the bar called “BAR”. The BAR 😀 is actually a beach shack that turns into bar after 7 p.m. Here you can choose between (wow!) 4 types of beer and they do even have some rum and vodka (double wow!!). The BAR “owner” is a Swedish guy who also (with another 3 local guys) is the main actor during the daily fire-show!

 

Long Beach, Kecil Pulau, Evening
Long Beach, Kecil Pulau, Evening

 

Transport

 

There are many walking tracks which all lead through the wild forest (jungle). If you are lucky, you may (not) spot the wildlife of the Perhentians: huuuuge monitor lizards, monkeys, nesting turtles, giant fruit bats, snakes (of course), etc. during your hike or walk. If you’re not one of these people with excess energy, the only transport option for you is water taxy. The prices are negotiable, but beach hopping should not cost more than RM 12, and island hopping – RM 20.

 

Sunset Coral Beach, Perhentian Islands
Sunset Coral Beach, Perhentian Islands
Coral Beach, Perhentian Islands
Coral Beach
Coral Beach Bay, Perhentian Islands
Coral Beach Bay
Coral Beach Bay before Sunset
Coral Beach Bay before Sunset
Amazing Sunset Coral Beach, Perhentian Islands
Amazing Sunset Coral Beach
 
We spent a whole week on the Perhentian Islands – the best Islands you can visit in Malaysia when it comes to marine life, snorkeling, diving and water sports!
 
What is your favourite Island?! Curious to read about it!
 
Enjoy the day!


 

 


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LillaGreen

Tsvete Popp is a travel and lifestyle blogger based in Innsbruck, Austria. LillaGreen is about living the life of a dreamer with passionate devotion to travel and photography. LillaGreen encourages you to explore the World by creating your own rules to follow.

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